Today is Canada Day, the national holiday. Most Canadian historians see the First World War as being the time when Canada "came of age" as a nation. Certainly Canada paid a huge price--more than 63,000 dead from a nation of seven million people. (To put that into perspective, that would have been as though the United States had suffered almost 950,000 killed in that war--as it was, American war deaths were just over 116,000.)
So in honor of Canada, i thought we might look at a gentler product of the Canadian war effort. In 1914, Lt. Harry Colebourn was travelling by train to the east to ship out to England. In White River, Ontario, he purchased a black bear cub from a trapper for $20 (quite a jackpot for the trapper). He named her Winnie, in honor of his adopted home town of Winnipeg. Colebourn's regiment, the Fort Garry Horse, adopted Winnie as a mascot, and smuggled her to England. When they were about to ship out for France, Colebourn found a home for her at the London Zoo. It was there that A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin saw Winnie, and, as is too often said, the rest is history.
Harry Colebourn with Winnie on Salisbury Plain in England, 1914.